I graduated high school with a Business Education diploma. I had become an excellent typist (100 wpm on a manual machine, 105 on electric) and competent stenographer (dictation at up to 120 wpm). I entered the business world as a typing pool stenographer with the telephone company, and over the next five years worked as a secretary in several different settings. This was the "Mad Men" era, and I can affirm that the show wasn't at all far off from the way things really were!
In 1967 I married Joe, who was destined to spend the next four years in the U.S. Navy as an enlisted man. My parents had been right about one thing: Wherever we lived, I never had any trouble finding a job as a secretary. Civil Service work on the Navy base at the first duty station wasn't very interesting, but it was convenient and paid well. Later I worked in educational settings at Old Dominion University and The Citadel as we moved about at the Navy's whim.
After discharge, Joe resumed his college education and once again I quickly and easily found work in Akron at one of the rubber companies. After about a year, a unique position became available and I was fortunate to land it. We were living in Kent, Ohio, and a pair of long-haired attorneys were enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame by handling cases related to the tragic situation of May 4 and other hippie-related work. Their secretary was leaving, and I got the job. Howard and Bruce wore blue jeans to the office and tried to keep their weights the same so they would fit in the suit that was kept in the office closet in the event they had to go to court suddenly. They made their money through personal injury but the work they loved was defending hippies, drug cases, and the local branch of Hell's Angels. Sometimes they weren't paid with money but rather with a gun or a bag of marijuana.
With Joe studying late into the night, I had taken up two different ways of filling my evenings. Training and then serving as a help line (suicide prevention) volunteer was rewarding work. And I had my own typewriter at home, so I registered with the university to become a dissertation typist, which was interesting and lucrative. I continued this work after leaving Howard and Bruce to become a mother.
Somehow dissertation typing led to being an at-home medical transcriptionist where my middleman would drop off an envelope of tapes each day at noon and pick up the work I'd done in the previous twenty-four hours. By this time we'd moved back to my home town. I was earning a good living doing the transcription but missed being around people once the children started school, so I accepted an opportunity to serve as a volunteer in the local hospital's pastoral care department.
One thing led to another, as they do. It's been 53 years since high school graduation. I might have been a good librarian. I probably would have been a good nurse. I'm still a hell of a typist, though I don't know if I can do 105 wpm any more. I use my shorthand regularly in a variety of settings.
At fourteen, when the library called to me, I'd never heard of a hospital chaplain and probably would have turned up my nose at the thought of being one. My parents certainly would have had no part of such a thing. When my children were nearly grown, I finally went to college and then on to graduate school/seminary, and that's what I do now (whether I'm grown up or not!) and I love every minute of it. I'm back to caring for hurting people, listening to their anguish, responding to traumas, supporting those who have received terrible news.
And, yes, it is at that same hospital where I was a Candy Striper. Funny how things work out.
*Dear Mr. Jackson,
We have just decided to change the design of the letterhead we have used for more than ten years. It is our feeling that the present design is old-fashioned and does not create a favorable impression. We understand that you are a commercial artist and that you have designed letterheads for other organizations in this city. We wonder whether you would consider designing one for us. . . .